Inside TV+Movies with Daniel Fienberg
NatGeo lands the TV premiere of this year's Sundance favorite
"Restrepo," which has its small screen premiere on Monday (Nov. 29) night represents a major programming coup for National Geographic Channel.
I missed "Restrepo" multiple times at Sundance back in January and never found the right time to catch it during its brief, limited theatrical run this summer. Normally when documentaries slip through those respective cracks, your best chance to watch them would come on HBO or PBS (or just via Netflix). But here's NatGeo giving a small screen home to a probable Oscar nominee for Outstanding Documentary. And "Restrepo" is an unflinching, intense, occasionally horrifying portrait of war, which makes a statement for NatGeo, still better known for pretty nature docs like "Great Migrations" than its many hard-hitting specials.
I can't actually say what form "Restrepo" will be in when NatGeo airs it. The network promises a premiere "with limited commercial interruption," but even limited interruption will doubtlessly break the film's grim momentum. It's also unclear if NatGeo is going to maintain the language in the film, which is every bit as salty and unguarded as you would expect from 20-something soldiers in combat.
Directed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, "Restrepo" has a fly-on-the-wall immediacy that's difficult to deny, even if its journalistic approach to the subject matter makes it occasionally feel like a companion piece to both directors' respective books, rather than a piece of art in its own right.
More thoughts on "Restrepo" after the break...
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush topline a solid-but-limited prestige pic
My grandmother is well into her 90s, but scarcely a week goes by when her schedule isn't packed with symphony concerts, plays and trips to the cinema and scarcely a phone conversation goes by where I don't hang up convinced that her social life is vastly fuller than my own.
We also never speak without her asking me if there are any movies out that she should see. It's been a while since I've been able to give her anything good to seek out. It's not that I haven't liked movies this year, but I wouldn't immediately think to subject my Bubie to the thick mountain accents of "Winter's Bone" or the technobabble of "The Social Network" or much of anything in "Let Me In."
But when I called her for Thanksgiving -- confusing, since she's Canadian and doesn't celebrate our oddball November Thanksgiving unless she's in The States with us -- I eagerly anticipated her request for recommendations, knowing that I had an answer.
"Go see 'The King's Speech,'" I told her, without hesitation.
It's handsome. It's clever. It's well-acted. And the entire darned movie is about clarity of diction, which is a valuable attribute if you happen to be selectively hard of hearing.
The Weinstein Company is welcome to use my pull quote: "The King's Speech" -- Finally a movie you can suggest to grandma. [Alternatively, "'The King's Speech' - A grand movie for grandparents."]
I wouldn't shy away from recommending "King's Speech" to my parents or to my 20-something brother, but I confess that with each youthful generation, my recommendation would become a little less enthusiastic.
The Weinstein Company is welcome to use my pull quote: "The King's Speech" -- Perfect for the whole family, albeit perfection in inverse proportion to age."
All of the nice things I said about "The King's Speech" just four paragraphs ago are true. Also true? "The King's Speech" is old-fashioned, a little aesthetically claustrophobic and occasionally intellectually superficial in ways that left me yearning for more depth from screenwriter David Seidler and director Tom Hooper. Some of those things that are deficiencies in my book will contribute to making "The King's Speech" an Oscar front-runner and an overall crowd-pleaser.
More on "The King's Speech" after the break...
Dan and Alan answer reader questions for an hour. Woot!
Happy Monday, Boys & Girls. It's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast time!
Since there were no new shows premiering this week and we didn't have an immediate ongoing show that seemed right for a catch-up, we decided to dedicate this week entirely to going through a pile of reader mail.
Usually the podcast is us talking about TV in a specific way. This week is a lot of general chatter.
Sepinwall breaks it down like this:
Mid-season scheduling changes at NBC & FOX: 1:40 - 15:38
The power of TV critics (or lack thereof): 15:38 - 18:40
The lack of fidelity to foreign languages on American TV: 18:40 - 23:51
TV show episodes that tower over the rest of their respective series: 23:51 - 30:19
Shows with storylines that go off the rail: 30:19 - 36:10
Thoughts on "Sports Night" and "The West Wing": 36:10 - 46:00
HDTV versus standard-def: 46:00 - 52:30
"Dexter" and the dangers of predictability: 52:30 - 1:01:36
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.]
And here's the podcast...
Latest 'Survivor' bootee talks about going from royalty to peasant
Two minutes into Wednesday (Nov. 17) night's "Survivor: Nicaragua," Brenda Lowe declared herself the king of the game, confident that her alliance was unbreakable and unstoppable.
Less than an hour later, Jeff Probst was snuffing out Brenda's torch.
Falls from grace are not uncommon in "Survivor," but Brenda wasn't the victim of a Tribal Council blindside. No, Brenda was blindsided earlier in the episode when she discovered that NaOnka, one of the centerpieces of the alliance, was the a key part of the upcoming coup.
HitFix caught up with the deposed King to talk about her fall from grace, why she didn't demand Sash give her the Immunity Idol and why she bothered trusting NaOnka at all.
'Pushing Daisies' star says what viewers can look forward to this season
[WARNING: Chi McBride sorta kinda spoils the ending of "Lost" in this interview.]
Ever do a long, detailed interview that was rendered mostly irrelevant by factors beyond your control?
Take, for example, the conversation I had with Chi McBride back in August on the set of FOX's "Human Target." I vividly remembered McBride's discomfort with doing our interview on the inclined from lawn of the mansion being used for the day. What I forgot was the amount of time we spent discussion how he figured "Human Target" would do airing on Friday nights and the wisdom of network TV programmers.
The short version: He thought "Human Target" would do well on Fridays, but he's been doing this long enough to know the decision is out of his hands.
The issue is moot now, since FOX moved "Human Target" off of Friday nights, just days before it was set to premiere, pushing the show to Wednesdays, starting tonight (Nov. 17).
Fortunately, just two weeks after that Vancouver interview, I talked to McBride on camera and tried to cover different terrain, meaning no Friday questions and the viability of this video interview.
Check it out...
"Human Target" returns to FOX on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.
The 'Watchmen' and 'Little Children' star teases what's in store for Guerrero
Perhaps due to the decade-plus that he spent away from the industry, Jackie Earle Haley has packed a lot of achievements into the delayed second act of his career.
He's been nominated for an Oscar, starred in an adaptation of the most revered comic book ever, worked with multiple award-winning filmmakers and helped to reinvent one of the horror's most feared characters. He's currently working as a regular on a network TV show.
I've talked to Haley at Comic-Cons, TCA press tours, in full "Nightmare on Elm Street" makeup and on the luxurious lawn of a suburban Vancouver mansion and the "Breaking Away" and "Watchmen" star has never been less than humble, accommodating and friendly, which isn't as easy as it sounds under some of those conditions.
The aforementioned Vancouver mansion was the scene for the season's second episode of "Human Target" and Haley caught me up on his hopes for Season 2, the changes to the show and the importance of keeping his character, Guerrero, mysterious.
Full interview after the break...
'Rome,' 'Luther' veteran joins 'Human Target' for Season 2
I had a great conversation with new "Human Target" co-star Indira Varma on the FOX action-drama's Vancouver set back in August, but somehow I mostly remember how cold she seemed.
It was one of those days that starts off chilly and cloudy and ends up in the '80s by noon, but she sat down across from me in one thick jacket and half-way through the interview, she replaced it with an even thicker coat, one that might almost count as a parka.
Even as she was rubbing her hands together, Varma put on a good show of not being frigid, showing exactly the composure and confidence American audiences would expect from the British actress best known for her turn as Niobe on HBO's "Rome" or her appearance on the London episodes of "Bones."
Varma joins the cast of "Human Target" for its premiere on Wednesday (Nov. 17) night, part of the show's minor Season Two tinkering.
Click through for our full conversation, transcribed minus the shivering...
TBS' new college comedy is like many college comedies you probably liked more
It wasn't intentional, but I spent a lot of the past year rewatching Judd Apatow's short-lived FOX comedy "Undeclared." I did a partial rewatch back in December when "Undeclared" came in at No. 21
on my list of TV's Best of the Decade. And then Sepinwall and I did a full revisiting of the series during the summer as a way to fill podcasting time during the sluggish programming weeks.
I've also continued to do periodic catch-up marathons on ABC Family's "Greek," which I can never be bothered to watch when it's actually on TV, but which makes for surprisingly perfect in-flight iPhone viewing on cross-country journeys.
Although college-set TV shows and movies have always been less prevalent than their high school-set siblings, it's a genre I adore. I happily followed Rory Gilmore to Yale, made it through most of the run of "Saved by the Bell: The College Years," followed the West Beverly gang through their time at California University ("Go Condors!") and I haven't missed an episode of "Hellcats." Even if I accept "Animal House" as the genre's cinematic pinnacle, I can be perfectly happy watching solid ("Drumline"), so-so ("Revenge of the Nerds") or even sub-mediocre (Sorry, "PCU" and "Stomp the Yard" and too many others to count) entries in the genre.
It's hard to deny that high school is terrain that has been more diversely mined by storytellers than college. There are cliches aplenty in the high school genre, but perhaps because there are more of them, it's easier to let certain fields go fallow before replanting the cliches and starting again. With college comedies, if you don't find a point-of-view or some sort of differentiating factor, all you're doing is dredging from a very shallow well of cliches.
That brings me to TBS' "Glory Daze," which premieres on Tuesday (Aug. 16) night. It's not bad enough for me to get worked up about its ineptitude, but its creative laziness and unapologetically derivative trappings make it impossible to endorse.
Click through for more thoughts...
Who is Ames and what will the new character add to S.2 of 'Human Target'?
Janet Montgomery has been difficult to miss in 2010.
In a single week this summer, Montgomery made her first appearance as E's assistant Jennie on "Entourage," popped up on my "The League" premiere screener as fantasy football advice-dispensing stripper Ambrosia and was cast in a key role in the second season of FOX's "Human Target."
Then in August, the first trailer was released for Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan," featuring Montgomery in a supporting part, and one day later, I found myself on the Vancouver set of "Human Target," discussing the 25-year-old British actress' busy year.
Ambitious British assistant to sport-loving American exotic dancer to friendly ballerina to ragamuffin thief trying to go straight with the help of Christopher Chance and company? That's a breakthrough year.
Before "Human Target" returns on Wednesday (Nov. 17) click through for my full interview with Montgomery from that August set visit...
The Botwins experience the nightmare of modern airline travel
As he's discussed himself and we discussed on the podcast, Sepinwall tuned out of "Weeds" a while back, so you can't expect him to do a "Weeds" finale blog post.
I know I'm not a good substitute, but just in case anybody has any thoughts on tonight's sixth season finale, I'm happy to instigate a conversation. After all, I'm a "Weeds" apologist. Some people see "Weeds" the way it is and say, "Why aren't you Season Two?" I see "Weeds" as it could be and say, "What did we get from Season Six?"
Leaving aside the grotesque paraphrasing of Bobby Kennedy there, I thought this was a strong season of "Weeds," but I also found a way to talk myself into liking the past two seasons as well. If you expect "Weeds" to be the snarky comedy that it used to be, with the different variations on the Malvina Reynolds theme song and the broad ironies of suburban life? Well, you probably turned away from "Weeds" a long time ago. If you viewed the show as a journey from one point in the pilot, to an extremely different place 70-plus episodes later? Well, Season Six made that journey literal, forcing all of the show's remaining characters to examine how far they've traveled.
A few more thoughts after the break and then y'all can share any opinions you might have...